Debugger

The Problem With Relying on ‘Wirecutter’ Reviews

Trying to buy the best of everything is actually the worst

Owen Williams
OneZero
Published in
5 min readDec 2, 2019

--

Photo: Tayler Smith. Prop Styling: Caroline Dorn.

WWhen I’m making major purchases, my obsession with buying the very best product can be… the worst. I’ll research bizarre specifications (like the types of backlighting for 4K TVs) for hours, read reviews, and ensure I’ve exhausted all available options before actually hitting the buy button. I worry about the FOMO I might have if I make the wrong choice.

I wasn’t always this way. Just a few short years ago, I’d happily walk into an electronics store and buy the TV I liked most, with the handful of features I cared about, then take it home and enjoy it without considering the alternatives.

What happened to me was that I found a glorious product review website called Wirecutter, which painstakingly tests both the exciting and banal in almost every category. It has reviews of air beds, TVs, kitchen knives, printers — you name it. Now, every time I need to buy, say, a screwdriver or a tent, I begin with a single search: “best tent Wirecutter” to see if the site has the answer.

The Wirecutter’s premise is that there is a best option, and that it can be discovered through rigorous testing. And this idea has ruined me.

Because the truth is there isn’t really a “best” anything out there — it’s just easier to rely on these reviews than choose for yourself. Other people’s “best” is never going to include the most important factors to you, personally. I love Wirecutter, but what happens if the best isn’t the best for you?

When I grabbed the publication’s top pick for an air purifier, the Coway Mighty, I found out the hard way. It worked fine, but its iPod Shuffle aesthetic was unsightly in my house, it took up a ton of space, and it randomly fired up loudly for seemingly no reason. My partner told me to return it. In general, aesthetic beauty, which is an important factor for me, doesn’t seem to be a factor Wirecutter considers in its reviews.

Other ignored criteria can be more fundamental. Walt Mossberg, a longtime reviewer and journalist, discovered that for himself when he bought the Panasonic FlashXpress toaster oven. Wirecutter tested the $120 appliance for…

--

--

Owen Williams
OneZero

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow